Do you remember Victoria Wood’s Val de Ree (Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha) with the estimable Celia Imrie? It’s a while since I’ve seen it, but as I remember, Victoria and Celia hike for the best part of a day across moors to reach their bed for the night in an windswept and inaccessible Youth Hostel. When they arrive, their greeting could be warmer. They’re told that they’re not allowed in until evening, despite the driving rain, and they spend some time trying to outwit the formidable manager by sneaking round the back. When they finally make it inside, they’re forced to listen to an interminable evening lecture whilst eating one, only one, biscuit, then they’re kicked out again at the crack of dawn. It’s an experience they wish never to repeat.
I’m happy to report that if Youth Hostels were ever like that, and I suspect that Victoria Wood was using a little artistic license, times have mercifully changed. You can stay inside all day, should you wish, eat as many biscuits as you like and compulsory evening lectures are thankfully absent.
What you do get is a clean, well-appointed, en-suite family room, a large self-catering kitchen with everything you’d need, a common room with TV, books and board games, a small shop selling food and drinks, and real coffee for breakfast. The staff are cheerful, helpful, and a mine of information about the local area. Did I mention the real coffee?
When were offered the chance to review a Hostel over half term, we asked if we could stay in one that was by the seaside, close to London and accessible by public transport. The nice people at YHA suggested their Eastbourne Hostel, which fitted the bill on all three counts, including the public transport, which isn’t always the case outside of London. The Hostel is on the edge of the town, a short bus ride from the beach and pier, right next to the footpath for the South Downs Way, and a shortish – depending on the length of your legs – walk to Beachy Head.
We ate proper fish and chips in cafe with formica tables and straws for drinks; sheltered from the weather on the pier, feeding two pence pieces into slot machines and coming away at least a pound poorer; found interesting shells and paddled on the blustery beach; got thoroughly muddy sliding down a bank, in the late evening sun on the footpath just behind the hostel; looked at Jubilee related art and made up words in the fab Towner Art Gallery; played new-to-us boardgames and discovered that Steve’s knowledge of boy bands is more extensive than any of us thought; and kept our spirits up on the slightly damp and extremely blowy walk to Beachy Head with large quantities of very sticky rock and a rousing rendition of Val de Ree.
I like to think that Victoria Wood would approve.
If you’d like to stay in a YHA property during the summer holidays, click on the link below for a SPECIAL OFFER: £99 family rooms for 3 nights during the whole school holidays! Bookable until 12th June for stays from 7th July – 12th September. OFFER CODE: FAMSTAY-027. WEBSITE LINK: www.yha.org.uk/small-world
We stayed for free for two nights at the Eastbourne YHA Hostel, where the manager makes very good coffee. All views expressed are my own.